Every business builder I know has made sacrifices in order to start and grow their businesses. It’s a key characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. By definition, a sacrifice is the act of surrendering something highly valued for the sake of something of even greater importance. The concept of relinquishing a prized object for a highly desirable reward is as old as time. In today’s business environment, owners often find themselves in situations where sacrifices are made with varying consequences.
Personal sacrifices. Speaking with entrepreneurs, we learn they often miss children’s ball games, dance recitals, birthday parties, parent teacher conferences and wedding anniversaries. Why? They are often traveling somewhere in the world doing business on behalf of their company. As I look back on my experiences, there were nights when I came home from work after the children were in bed, and I was too tired to even enjoy a bowl of soup for dinner. My wife, Jeanne, was generally home alone raising the children while I was trying to close a business deal. As busy entrepreneurs, we should ask ourselves, what are we missing to achieve business success? Where are our priorities? Is work more important to us than our wives and children?
To be fair, I tried to juggle my family commitments and the demands of entrepreneurship. Fortunately, there were occasions when I enjoyed a normal day playing catch with my sons and helping my daughters with their homework. Thankfully, all six children survived my entrepreneurial years and are exceptional adults. Today, they are business executives and homemakers with many of the same challenges Jeanne and I faced.
Many entrepreneurs are not so fortunate. As they have built their kingdoms, they have lost their spouses through divorce and their children hardly know their names. In many cases, the tradeoffs between work and family can be devastating.
There are other sacrifices in an entrepreneur’s life. They often relinquish the pleasures they enjoy. Due to time commitments at work, they rarely watch TV or see a movie, go for a hike or bike ride. Golf clubs, fishing poles and skis are in the garage covered in dust. They no longer coach their kids’ soccer or baseball teams. They have to postpone camping with the scouts in the mountains. A Friday night date with the spouse is on hold. There is no time left to do so. Family vacations are rare and the entrepreneur is always connected to the office, even at Disneyland. A good night’s rest is a memory. Exercise is a thing of the past. Peace and tranquility have been replaced by stress and worry.
I knew one day I had crossed the line of sanity as I grew MarketStar when the Delta airline flight attendant called me by name, after too many trips to San Jose on the same flight to visit technology clients. On another occasion, I awoke one night around 3 a.m. in a hotel room somewhere in America wondering where I was. Every hotel room looked the same. What was the name of the city? Why was I there? Had I lost my mind?
Balance is critical. There is only so much time in a day. To maintain important relationships and one’s happiness, the waking hours need to be prioritized with a balanced life in mind, with time for work and time for other important matters.
What can a busy entrepreneur do? First, remember your family. Find time to be with them. Make it a non-negotiable priority. Second, make some time for yourself. To eliminate burnout, dedicate an hour a day to visit the gym, read, listen to music or take a walk. Third, hire an employee and delegate some of your tasks to him or her. Reduce your workload. Fourth, be at peace knowing that some work days, weeks and months will be long and intense, but in like manner there will be other days when you stay home and don’t go to work.
In summary, the life of an entrepreneur is filled with many sacrifices. Please know they are real but manageable. I wish you success as your continue your business journey.
For those of you who have started a business already, what has your experience been? How did you find balance? I look forward to talking to you at www.AlanEHall.com. Or, if you would you like to ask me a question, you can find my new Twitter feed at @AskAlanEHall. You’ll find my newest ebooks at that location as well.
Alan E. Hall is a co-founding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is the Chairman of the Utah Technology Council.